‘I’ll google it.’ It trips off our tongues, doesn’t it and we now use ‘to google’ as a verb in the same way that we use ‘to hoover’ as a generic term for using a vacuum cleaner.
But there is a greener alternative. Ecosia has been in existence since 2009 when its founder Christian Kroll became aware of deforestation during a trip around the world. On his return, he founded Ecosia with the aim of using its profits to plant trees. About 45 searches pay for the planting of one tree and by June 2022 it had financed the planting of over 150 million trees worldwide across 22 projects and 17 countries, from Brazil to Burkina Faso.
Saplings waiting to be planted by an Ecosia-financed project in Senegal
Ecosia claims that one search on its platform will remove one kilogram of CO2 from the atmosphere. It uses Microsoft servers and has built solar farms to meet its own energy needs and offset its use of Microsoft, to the extent that it now claims to be 200% carbon negative.
But planting the right tree in the right place is important to Ecosia in contrast to some schemes where well-meaning people have planted trees in totally unsuitable areas.
Ecosia has a different approach; it funds small-scale partner projects, which it monitors before it scales them up and emphasises forest maintenance and local knowledge to keep the trees alive. Single species plantations, non-native trees and pesticides are all banned. In fact, a tree only counts towards Ecosia’s total after it has survived for three years after planting.
Ethical in other ways too, Ecosia respects its users’ privacy by encrypting their searches, not selling their data and not using external tracking tools. Accountability is important so it publishes monthly financial reports and tree planting receipts. Acknowledging the need to remain a profitable business, Kroll advocates a shake-up of the private sector. “The system we have at the moment is ‘businesses destroy, non-profits try to fix,'” says Kroll. “I don’t think that non-profits need to solve the problems of the world — I think businesses naturally should.”
Ecosia restoring orangutans’ environment in Indonesia
And what of the future? Already, Ecosia is funnelling a portion of its profits into green energy start-up companies as part of its ongoing commitment to green energy investment. And it has started to filter the adverts that appear on its site by displaying a leaf icon alongside the search results of over 6,500 ‘planet-friendly websites’ to help its users make more sustainable choices.
Does this mean that Ecosia will stop planting trees? Absolutely not. It will continue to plant the right trees in the right places. To quote its website ‘Trees mean a happy environment, healthy people and a strong economy.’
To find out more and to download Ecosia, go to https://www.ecosia.org/.